Former Zimabwean finance minister and opposition politician Tendai Biti has been detained by police as he tried to cross the border and seek asylum in neighboring Zambia, his lawyer said on Wednesday.
A day earlier the authorities said they were looking for Biti in connection with violence following last week’s disputed election in which President Emmerson Mnangagwa was declared winner.
Six people were killed in the post-election army clampdown on protests against the result and Mnangagwa’s main rival, opposition leader Nelson Chamisa, has accused the government of a security crackdown on his party’s members.
Biti, whose People’s Democratic Party had formed an election alliance with Chamisa’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), had been in hiding since last week and had feared for his life, his lawyer Nqobizitha Mlilo said.
“We have kickstarted processes of seeking political asylum so we are waiting to see how far the processes will go. His life has been in danger,” he said.
Police have not yet informed him of the charges, Mlilo said.
The post-election turmoil was reminiscent of the long rule of Robert Mugabe, who was toppled last November in a de facto military coup and replaced by Mnangagwa.
Police spokeswoman Charity Charamba said she had no information on Biti’s arrest. The Criminal Investigations Department had said on Tuesday police were looking for Biti, MDC chairman Morgen Komichi and MDC youth leader Happymore Chidziva linked to last week’s violence.
Mlilo said Biti was arrested after presenting himself to Zambian immigration officials at Chirundu border post, 350 km north (217 miles) of the capital Harare, where Zimbabwean and Zambian officials share the same building.
“It seems the Zambian immigration officials alerted the Zimbabwean police and they effected an arrest,” said Mlilo who was at the border with Biti.